Tag: Post-war settlement

Social security is a provision paid for by the public to support the public ‘from from the cradle to the grave’ when they fall on hard times

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This post follows on from my previous article, which critically addresses David Gauke’s irrational defence of the punitive use of social security sanctions.

Some logical gaps in government rhetoric

The government claim that more people are in employment. However, the government have ensured via systematic deregulation that the ‘supply-side’ labour market is designed to suit the wants of employers and not the needs of employees. Supply-side policies include the promotion of greater competition in labour markets, through the removal of ‘restrictive’ practices, such as the protection of employment.

For example, as part of supply-side reforms in the 1980s, trade union powers were greatly reduced by a series of measures including limiting worker’s ability to call a strike, and by enforcing secret ballots of union members prior to strike action.

More recently, the Conservatives have attacked trade unions again, encroaching on work place democracy and civil rights. People claiming social security are being coerced by the state to take any job available, regardless of conditions and pay, or face sanctions.

This also seriously undermines any kind of bargaining for better pay and working conditions. It leaves workers without protection against profit-driven monopsonist employers (large employers that tend to dominate the employment market, such as Capita, G4S, Atos, Amazon, Uber, for example) leading to lower and lower wages. The government’s claims about the merits of increased labour market ‘flexibility’ have nonetheless introduced a considerable degree of precarity, which makes workers feel insecure, and more fearful of losing their jobs. It has also led to lower wage growth and rapidly increasing inequality.

As a consequence of government decision-making, much employment is insecure and wages have been driven down to the point where they are exploitative and no longer cover even the basic livings costs of workers. Wages have stagnatedand are most likely to remain stagnated for the foreseeable future. 

So we now have a politically constructed economic situation where even nurses and teachers are forced to visit food banks because they can’t afford to eat. 

At a time when the government boasts more people than ever are in employment, the numbers of cases of malnutrition and poverty-related illnesses are actually rising

The official UK unemployment rate has been well below the EU average for some years, and the as the government keeps pointing out, the employment rate is almost at a historic high, yet the welfare state is seen as a major concern, with the government claiming it presents people with ‘perverse incentives’, which prevent them from working. That very clearly isn’t true. However, the employment figures disguise the serious problem of under-employment, employment precarity and low wages.  

Furthermore, a recent report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation reveals that more than a  fifth of the UK population is now living in poverty amid the worst decline for children and pensioners in decades. Nearly 400,000 more children and 300,000 more pensioners are now living in poverty than five years ago, during which time there have been continued increases in poverty across both age groups – prompting experts to warn that hard-fought progress towards tackling destitution is ‘in peril’. 

The analysis highlights that 3 factors which had, over previous decades, led to a fall in poverty, are now cause for concern; social security support for many of those on low incomes ensured that people didn’t experience severe hardship and poverty, but it has been falling in real terms, changes to welfare policy have seen the numbers in poverty rising again, affordable social housing is no longer accessible and rents are increasing (particularly in the private sector), and lastly, rising employment is no longer reducing poverty.  

Work very clearly does not pay. 

The UK is regressing. We have a government that is undoing the social gains made following our progressive post-war settlement. 

The economic problems, inequality and poverty that we are witnessing have not arisen because welfare creates ‘disincentives’ to work, nor is there a shortage of  ‘hard workers’ or a sudden growth in the number of ‘shirkers’, or people with faulty characters, as every Conservative government since Margeret Thatcher has claimed. 

There is a shortage of good, secure and adequately salaried jobs. The small rise in the national minimum wage will unfortunately be offset with increasing living costs and the welfare cuts to both in and out of work social security. It’s not, by the way, a ‘national living wage’, as the Tories keep trying to claim. It’s a very modest rise in the minimum wage, which is rather long overdue. 

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‘Making work pay’ is a simply a Conservative euphemism for the dismantling of the welfare state – a civilised and civilising institution that came into existence to ensure that no-one faces starvation, destitution and the ravages of absolute poverty.

Most of our welfare spending goes on pensions, first, then the bulk of the rest goes on supporting people in work who are paid exploitatively low wages.  

Making work pay for employers: the ‘business friendly’ government 

Trade unions are disempowered, because the government hates any form of collective bargaining which is aimed at improving the living and working conditions of ordinary people. They legislated to ensure that any collective action is very difficult. The government also punishes people on low pay with sanctions. As if taking money from people already on the breadline will somehow address the profit seeking executive decisions of employers. That’s cruel beyond belief. 

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation report says that the squeeze on living standards now risks storing up problems for the future, with people being caught in a  ‘standstill generation’ – one where people are unable to build the foundations for a decent, secure life. 

Over the last couple of days, I have seen a few people of pension age claiming that pensions are ‘not welfare’. That pensions are a ‘right’, and that people who paid in all their lives deserve support. Of course they do. 

However, so do our young people (who live in a much less kind society than the one our generation enjoyed), working people, disabled people and everyone else who faces material hardship. We ALL pay into the welfare state. It was designed to provide ‘from the cradle to the grave’ support for everyone who should need it, as set out in Sir William Beveridge’s report Social Insurance and Allied Services, published on 1 December 1942.

Beveridge’s vision was for an national insurance-based welfare state in which entitlement would be earned largely by the function the citizen undertook, either through work or by assuming caring responsibilities. When Winston Churchill finally turned his attention to domestic politics after the Second World War he conjured up the phrase by which Beveridge’s proposals would be described: he envisaged a compulsory national insurance that would afford coverage ‘from the cradle to the grave’.

Social security originally included maternity grants, child benefit, unemployment and sickness benefits, old-age pensions and a grant to cover the costs of death. 

The underpinning welfare principles of universalism and collectivism 

The national insurance scheme is intuitively fair to most people, it is based on collective ethics, rather than being governed by private market insurance rules. 

‘Welfare’ means Wellbeing/Safety/Health. Beverage was tasked with the responsibility of determining what was needed for Britain to take care of the basic needs of citizens, ensuring no-one lived in poverty, and to create a set of reforms that ensured everyone had a basic standard of living, regardless of their circumstances.

Welfare was originally designed to be universally accessible when people were in need of assistance. No-one deserves support in meeting their basic survival needs more than anyone else. Or rather, every person ought to have the same right to adequately meet the costs necessary for survival – basic costs for fundamental needs such as for food, fuel and shelter, for example.

It’s a measure of how successful the Conservatives’ intentional, purposefully divisive stigmatising campaign has been of those in receipt of social security that some social groups want to now distance themselves from the very term ‘welfare’.

Yet the welfare state was a truly great British achievement, it was a civilised and civilising reform that improved the lives of many, sparing them the abject misery of absolute poverty. The Conservatives don’t pay for welfare provision: we do. Yet to hear their anti-welfare rhetoric and to read their anti-humanist ideology, anyone would think the funding comes from their own pockets, such is their scorn and indignation that people should have, and expect the right, to an adequate standard of living and healthcare.

Yet this is what Cameron had in mind when he said he wanted to end ‘the culture of entitlement’. He was signalling that the Conservatives intend to dismantle welfare,  other public services and provisions. The government portrays our welfare state as a ‘free good’, but WE have already paid for it. As did our parents.

Instead of regarding welfare as ‘unsustainable’ and as the problematic ‘vulnerability’ of some citizens requiring support in a system that invariably creates wealth for a few, and increasing hardship for the many, perhaps it’s time to view the government’s obsession with welfare conditionality, ‘behaviour change’ and punitive sanctions – which have turned a provision aimed at meeting basic material needs into a means of disciplining poor people – and with dismantling our social security, for what this really is: state oppression. 

In the 1940s, a widely shared international consensus specifically linked social welfare to democratic citizenship, upholding universal rights, greater equality and social justice. We share with Europe a common history of social rights, democratic participation and welfare capitalism. In light of the recent global transformations of the economic order, significant changes in the distribution of wealth and power have reshaped the meaning of citizenship and redefined the relationship between the state and citizens in a post-welfare-state era. The lasting and damaging effects of austerity and inequality will inevitably negatively influence democratic inclusion and participation, as well as having a profound impact on people’s material wellbeing. 

David Stuckler and Sanjay Basu show in their book, The Body Economic: Why Austerity Kills (2013), that the human costs of dismantling the welfare state may be measured out in increased morbidity and mortality figures, as evidenced in the global recession. The book explores government responses to financial crises through the lens of health outcomes. The authors argue that austerity is never the right prescription as it hinders return to growth and causes immense suffering to citizens’ health and wellbeing. 

In those countries that maintained their welfare system, no such increases occurred. Stuckler and Banjay also point out that those countries which maintained their welfare system recovered quicker from the recession than those that didn’t, indicating that welfare spending is an excellent stimulus to the economy.

The truth is that for Conservatives, their perceived problems of the welfare state is not really an issue of its ‘sustainability’ or cost, it is a purely ideological issue. The Conservatives’ most treasured class-based prejudices and beliefs in the not so free Free Market are chronically and morbidly offended by it. 

I guess Beverage didn’t foresee the sixth great ‘evil’ – the overarching anti-collectivism of belligerently imposed neoliberal socioeconomics, which extends ever-widening inequality and increasing poverty of the masses wherever it travels. 

Welfare was designed for everyone in need, regardless of their age. That was the whole point of welfare – to ensure no-one in the UK is starving and destitute. 

As citizens, we need to stand on our hind legs and bypass the intentionally divisive rhetoric. We need to stand together to defend what is OURS: the welfare state was never funded by the government and never was. 

The wefare budget is therefore not the government’s money to cut.


 

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Jeremy Corbyn’s greatest success is the discrediting of neoliberalism. He gets my vote

Jeremy Corbyn Labour conference speech in full (2017)

One of Corbyn’s most important achievements is in extending national debate beyond the limits of neoliberal ideology and challenging the hegemony imposed by Margaret Thatcher. The sell by date was last century, it expired in General Pinochet’s Chile. Yet the Tories continue to flog a dead horse, selling England by the pound, while selling the public very short indeed.

With it’s justification narrative of meritocracy, entrenched notions of ‘deserving and undeserving’ applied post hoc to explain away the steeply unequal hierarchy of the economic order, neoliberalism is founded on deeply eugenic ideas and social Darwinism. Neoliberals from Margaret Thatcher onwards have embraced white supremacist thinkers such as Charles Murray

Murray is a statistically minded sociologist by training. Statistics tend to exclude qualitative accounts and details of the populations researched. They don’t do much to generate understandings or meaningful accounts, often imposing a theoretical framework onto those being studied, rather than presenting any meanigful dialogue between researcher and those researched. The result is rather a restricted, one sided account. 

Murray has spent decades working to rehabilitate long-discredited theories of IQ and heredity, turning them into a foundation on which to build a Conservative theory of society that rejects notions of equality and egalitarianism completely. He is fiercely opposed to welfare programmes and social safety nets of any kind. His thinking is embedded in neoliberal narrative.

In Murray’s view, wealth and social power naturally accrue towards a “cognitive elite” made up of high-IQ individuals (who are overwhelmingly white, male, and from well-to-do families), while those on the lower end of the eponymous bell curve form an “underclass” whose misfortunes stem from their ‘low intelligence’. 

It never crossed his mind that IQ tests simply measure a person’s ability to perform IQ tests. Or that other qualities, such as ruthlessness and dark triad traits (psychopathy, narcissism and Machiavellianism) – which are linked by callousness, manipulation, and a lack of remorse and empathy – are a more accurate measure of qualities that result in “success” and financial reward. The reckless behaviours of the financial class that caused the global crash bear out this theory, after all.

Narcissism consists of dominance motivation, a sense of entitlement, and perceived superiority combined with intolerance to criticism. Machiavellianism includes facile social charm, deceitful behaviour aimed at undermining others, and a reliance on manipulation. Psychopathy shows itself in low or absent empathy, an absence of remorse and conscience, high impulsivity, heartless social attitudes, and interpersonal hostility. Taken together, the most powerful tendency underlying all three Dark Triad traits is a knack for sadism, manipulation and exploiting others. 

Research has indicated that Machiavellianism significantly correlated with right-wing authoritarianism and social dominance orientation. Furthermore, narcissism was associated with right-wing authoritarianism, and both narcissism and psychopathy were associated with social dominance orientation. Finally, dark personality traits have been shown to be associated with moral foundations that in turn are linked to Conservatism.

For example, showed that Machiavellianism predicted both ingroup/loyalty and authority/respect, whereas psychopathy was positively associated with ingroup/loyalty. (Also see: The impact of dark tetrad traits on political orientation and extremism: an analysis in the course of a presidential election.)

The myth of economic growth

The Tories have frequently shrieked, with vindictive and borderline hysterical relish, that Labour’s pro-social economic policies reflect “fiscal irresponsibility”, but that doesn’t resonate with the government’s calamitous economic record over the past seven years. Nor does it fit with historic facts and accuracy. 

The Labour party were in power when the global crash happened. The recession in 2007/8 in the UK was not one that happened as a direct consequence of Labour’s policies. The seeds of The Great Recession were sown in the 80s and 90s. The global crisis of 2008 was the result of the financialization process: of the massive creation of fictitious financial capital and the hegemony of a reactionary ideology, neoliberalism, which is based on the assumption that markets are self-regulating and efficient. 

The New Right argued that competition and unrestrained selfishness was of benefit to the whole society in capitalist societies. It asserted that as a nation gets wealthier the wealth will “trickle down” to the poorest citizens, because it is invested and spent thereby creating jobs and prosperity. In fact the global financial crisis has demonstrated only too well that financial markets provide opportunities for investment that extend relatively few extra jobs and that feed a precarious type of prosperity that can be obliterated in just a matter of days. 

Neoliberalism: the social sins and economic incompetence of the New Right

The financial deregulation promoted by the New Right permitted the financial institutions to dictate government policy and allowed wealth to be channelled into speculative investments, exacerbating the volatility of share and housing markets. Neoliberal theories were embraced and cherished by big business because they provided a legitimation for their pursuit of self-interest, personal profit and ample avenues for business expansion.  

Private companies supported the argument that government regulation interfered with business and undermined “enterprise culture”.  In this view, government intervention in the management of the economy is unnecessary and unwise because the market is a “self-correcting” mechanism. There was also certain appeal in free market ideology for governments too, in that it absolved them of responsibility for economic performance and living standards of the population. Government functions were and continue to be consigned to profit-seeking private companies,.

The New Right advocated policies that aided the accumulation of profits and wealth in fewer hands with the argument that it would promote investment, thereby creating more jobs and more prosperity for all. As neoliberal policies were implemented around the world inequalities in wealth and income increased, there were health inequalities and poverty increased, contradicting neoliberal theories that by increasing the wealth at the top, everyone would become more affluent. Public funds were simply funnelled away into private hands.

Neoliberal politics were shaped by the decisions and policy activities of Reagan and Thatcher, the architects of deregulation, privatisation, competition, the somewhat mysterious “market forces”, reduced public spending, austerity and trickle-down economics.

The changes pushed through in the US and the UK in the 80s removed constraints on bankers, made finance more important at the expense of manufacturing and reduced the power of unions, making it difficult for employees to secure as big a share of the national economic wealth as they had in previous decades.

The flipside of rising corporate profits and higher rewards for the top 1% of earners was stagnating wages for ordinary citizens, and of course a higher propensity to get into debt.

The Conservatives have a historical record of economic incompetence, and of ignoring empirical evidence that runs counter to their ideological stance. Margaret Thatcher’s failed neoliberal experiment resulted in a crashed economy in 1980-1, which had devastating consequences for communities and many individuals.

Neoliberalism gives economic goals and profiteering an elevated priority over social goals. Many of the social gains made as a result of our post-war settlement have been unravelled since the 1980s, and this process accelerated from 2010, under the guise of austerity.  Rather than arising as a response to an economic need, austerity is central to neoliberal economic strategy. 

While free market advocates claim that neoliberalism promotes a democratic, minimal state, in practice, the neoliberal state has consistently demonstrated quite the opposite tendency, requiring authoritarianism and extensive, all pervasive ideological apparatus to implement an anti-social economic doctrine. As David Harvey says in A Brief History of Neoliberalismthe neoliberals’ economic ideals suffer from inevitable contradictions that require a state structure to regulate them.

If the citizens were free to make decisions about their own lives democratically, perhaps the first thing they would choose to undertake is interference with the property rights of the ruling elite, therefore posing an existential threat to the neoliberal experiment. Whether these popular aspirations take the form of drives towards  progressive taxation, unionisation or pushing for social policies that require the redistribution of resources, the “minimal state” cannot be so minimal that it is unable to respond to and crush the democratic demands of citizens. 

Any state method that seeks to subvert the democratic demands of citizens, whether it’s through force, coercion, ideology and propaganda or social engineering, is authoritarian.

Following Thatcher’s reluctant but necessary resignation, John Major’s government became responsible for British exit from the ERM after Black Wednesday on 16 September 1992. This led to a loss of confidence in Conservative economic policies and Major was never able to achieve a lead in opinion polls again. The disaster of Black Wednesday left the government’s economic credibility irreparably damaged. It’s a pity that the public tend to forget such historical facts subsequently, at election time.

The abiding consequences of Thatcher’s domestic policies from the 1980s and her policy template and legacy set in motion the fallout from the global neoliberal crisis. We are witnessing the terrible social costs of the current government’s perpetual attempts to fix the terminal problems of neoliberalism with more neoliberalism. 

Under the fraying blue banner, the public are now seeing the incongruence between political narrative and reality; there’s an irreconcilable gap between their own lived experiences of neoliberal policies, and what the government are telling them their experiences are.  

“Ten years after the global financial crash the Tories still believe in the same dogmatic mantra – deregulate, privatize, cut taxes for the wealthy, weaken rights at work, delivering profits for a few, and debt for the many.

[…] We are now the political mainstream. Our manifesto and our policies are popular because that is what most people in our country actually want, not what they’re told they should want.” Jeremy Corbyn.

What is the point of a socioeconomic system that benefits only a minority proportion of citizens? It hardly reflects a functioning democracy.  

Ideology is a linked set of ideas and beliefs that act to uphold and justify an existing or desired arrangement of power, authority, wealth and status in a society. Ideological hegemony arises where a particular ideology, such as neoliberalism, is pervasively reflected throughout a society in all principal social institutions and permeates cultural ideas and social relationships. It’s very difficult to “stand outside” of such a system of belief to challenge it, because it has become normalised, taking on the mantle of “common sense”.

Corbyn has talked about forging a “new common sense” during the Conference season. It’s one that has increasingly resonated with the wider public. If there were a general election tomorrow, Labour would win comfortably. In Jeremy Corbyn’s own words, “a new consensus is emerging.” 

However, neoliberal policies are insidious machinations controlled by the capitalist ruling class, in the context of a historic class struggle, to repress, exploit, extort and subjugate the ruled class. One of the key conditions for this to work is public compliance. Such compliance is garnered through an increasingly authoritarian and repressive state.

Of course, as previous discussed, this is one of the biggest inherent ideologic contradictions within neoliberalism: it demands a lean and small state, austerity, and the dismantling of support mechanisms that ensure the quality of life for all citizens, on the one hand, but requires an authoritarian state that is focussed primarily on public conformity and compliance in order to impose a mode of socioeconomic organisation that benefits so few, and lowers the standard of living for so many.

Neoliberalism was never the way forward: it only went backwards

Conservatives would be better named “Regressives”. They’re elitist and really are nasty authoritarians, who have chosen to impose a socioeconomic model that fails most people, destroys all of our public services, extends exploitation of labour, creates massive inequality and absolute poverty, damages the environment, eats away at public funds while shifting them to private bank accounts. Then the need exists to manufacture political justification narratives to cover the devastating social damage inflicted, which stigmatises and blames everyone who is failed by this failing system for being failed.

If the public had known all along what neoliberalism really is, and what its consequences are, they would never have wanted it. People are dying and other people are buying the planned and prepared bent rationale and political denials. Others simply look the other way. Until the consequences of the sheer unfairness of our social and economic organisation touches their own lives.

Apparently, there is “no causal link between punitive “behavioural change” policies and distress”, apparently. Examples of hardship, harm, suicide and death are simply “anecdotal”. Critics of policies and government decision-making are “scaremongering”, “extremists”, “enemies of the state”,  “deluded commies” and so on. Yet most of us are simply advocates of social democracy and justice. 

If you ever wondered how genocide happens, and how a nation come to somehow accept the terrible deeds of despots, well it starts much like this. It unfolds in barely perceptible stages: it starts with prejudiced language, divisive narratives, the promotion of the work ethic, exclusion, media propaganda, widening political prejudice, scapegoating, outgrouping and stigmatisation, acts of violence, and then extermination.

Our moral boundaries are being pushed incrementally. Before you know it, you hate the “workshy”, you believe that disabled people are shirkers who place an unacceptable burden on the state, you see all refugees and migrants as potential thieves, fraudsters and terrorists, and poor people are simply choosing the easy option. When political role models permit the public to hate, directing anger and fear at marginalised social groups, it isn’t long before the once unacceptable becomes thinkable.

The public conforms to changing norms. We become habituated. It’s difficult to believe a state may intentionally inflict harm on citizens. Our own government is guilty of “grave and systematic” abuses of the human rights of disabled people. A government capable of targeting such punitive policies at disabled people is capable of anything.

Conservatives think that civilised society requires imposed order, top down control and clearly defined classes, with each person aware of their rigidly defined “place” in the social order. Conservatism is a gate-keeping exercise geared towards economic discrimination and preventing social mobility for the vast majority.

David Cameron’s Conservative party got into Office by riding on the shockwaves of the 2008 global banking crisis: by sheer opportunism, dishonesty and by extensively editing the narrative about cause of that crisis. The Conservatives shamefully blamed it on “the big state” and “too much state spending.”

They have raided and devastated the public services and social security that citizens have paid for via taxes and national insurance. Support provision for citizens has been cut to the bone. And then unforgivably, they blamed the victims of those savage, ideologically-directed cuts for the suffering imposed on them by the Conservative Party, using the media to amplify their despicable, vicious scapegoating narratives. 

Setting up competition between social groups for resources just means everyone loses except for the very wealthy and powerful. This last 7 years we have witnessed the dehumanisation of refugees and migrants, of disabled people, of unemployed people, of young people, of the elderly and those on low pay. We have also witnessed the unearned contempt for and subsequent deprofessionalisation of doctors, economists, social scientists, academics, teachers, and experts of every hue in order to silence valid and democratic challenges and criticism of destructive government policies and ideology.

Many of us have pointed out that intent behind austerity has nothing to do with economic necessity, nor is it of any benefit to the economy. It’s simply to redistribute public wealth to private (and often offshore) bank accounts. The many deaths correlated with the Conservative’s punitive policies were considered and dismissed as acceptable “collateral damage”. The government constructed a lie about the economic “need” for people “living within our means” but at the same time as imposing cruel cuts on the poorest citizens, George Osborne awarded an obscene handout in the form of a tax cut of £107, 000 each per year to the millionaires.

Neoliberalism has transformed public funds into the disposible income of the very rich. Disabled people are suffering, and some are dying in poverty, unable to meet their basic needs so that wealthy people can hoard a little more wealth. Since 2010, very wealthy people have enjoyed other fiscally rewarding policy whilst the poorest have endured harsh austerity and seen their living standards deteriorate steadily. We have witnessed the return of absolute poverty – where people cannot meet the costs of their basic survival needs, such as for food, fuel and shelter –  as a direct consequence of the diminished welfare state since 2010. 

The current political and cultural narrative was carefully constructed to hide the truth from the wider population, ensuring that responsibility for individual people’s circumstances was relocated from the state to within those harmed by state actions: those ministers doing the harming via policies simply deny any empirical evidence of harm that they are presented, often clinging to psychological explanations of “mental illness” rather than acknowledging the wider role of adverse socioeconomic circumstances and political decision-making in the increasing number of people ending their own life, for example. Cases are despicably and callously dismissed as mere “anecdotal” accounts.

The harm being inflicted on disabled people in order to snatch back their lifeline support cannot be passed off as being the “unintentional consequences” of policies. The government clearly knew in advance what harm such draconian policies would result in. I say this because the evidence is that planning and preparation went into a comprehensive programme of reducing living conditions, public expectation, civil liberties and human rights. Or at least ignoring human rights legal frameworks. The right to redress and remedy has also been removed.

For example, the withdrawing of legal aid – particularly for welfare and medical negligence cases – preparing in advance for a UN inquiry; the political use of denial, behaviourism and pseudoscience to stifle public criticism; the introduction of mandatory reviews to deter appeals for wrongful Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) decisions; the devastating cuts to every support available to the poorest; the deprofessionalising of GPs and medical professionals; the claims that work is the only route out of poverty (when wages are intentionally depressed and many working people live in poverty) despite, evidence to the contrary, and our national insurance and tax system; the framework of psychological and material coercion inflicted on people claiming any form of welfare, forcing them to accept ANY work, thus pushing wages down further, since that completely removes any chance of wage bargaining; further destroying the unions; the passing of controversial and harmful policies by using statutory instruments, which reduces scope for scrutiny and objection in parliament; re-writing policies, legal rulings and changing the law to accommodate Conservative ideological criteria; shaping media “striver/scrounger” narratives and so on – all of these political deeds indicate a government that was well aware of the harmful consequences of their policies in advance of passing them into law, and that planned ahead, taking measures to stifle the potential for a public backlash.

Jeremy Corbyn’s apparently ‘improbable’ success in promoting a politics of social democracy, justice and integrity has matured, and realigned its centre with national sentiment. The Labour party have succeeded in breaking the neoliberal grip on intellectual thought in the UK, at last.

“For a long period of time, all economic thought has been dominated by trickle down economics, where if you issue tax cuts to corporations and the rich, the money will somehow filter down the rest of society,” John McDonnell says. 

“Well that’s significantly been proven wrong in this recent political debate, and we can see it, whether it’s people queuing up at food banks, housing shortages, millions of children living in poverty, two thirds of those families with someone in work. People all around are realising that this economic theory has failed, and what we’re trying to do is offer them an alternative. That’s what our manifesto was all about.”

A paradigm change is long overdue – by which I mean a substantial shift in the accepted way of thinking about the economy.  It may well be imminent. 

By the end of the second world war, the Keynesian revolution was sufficiently advanced for the Labour party to offer a comprehensive new approach to economic policymaking. Similarly, in 1979, the Conservative party was able to present the main elements of neoliberal thinking as the solution to the economic problems that blighted the economy in the 1970s. Up until recently, there was nothing comparable for the opponents of neoliberalism to latch on to.

New Labour continued with the neoliberal project, though they did temper this with a focus on ensuring adequate social provision to mitigate the worst ravages of untrammelled free market capitalism.

May recently felt the need to defend free market capitalism itself, which is a measure of how terrified the Tories are by Labour’s rise. yet the Conservative manifesto had drawn on left wing rhetoric, in order to appeal. It didn’t, however, because no-one believes the Conservatives’ “progressive” claims any more.

Laughably, the Conservative manifesto claimed: “We do not believe in untrammeled free markets. We reject the cult of selfish individualism. We abhor social division, injustice, unfairness and inequality.”

It’s a pretty desperate improvisation by the Tories as they try to respond to angry citizens and mass concerns about social issues like inequality and growing poverty. However, the Conservatives have never been a “savior” of the working people, as their dismantling of Trade Union power demonstrates all too well. The Tories’ savage cuts to spending on public services belied May’s phoney redistributionist rhetoric. May’s hysterical left-wing posturing against the inequality and social division created by Conservatives has simply confirmed that the Anglo-American neoliberal revolution of the 1980s is over.

Corbyn’s Labour party has built a consensus for change. Such change is essential to ensure that the toothmarks of necessity – the bite of absolute poverty, and the social disarray caused by over 35 years of culminating neoliberalism – are eased, soothed and healed in much the same way that the post-war Keynesian consensus era – which brought with it legal aid, social housing, the NHS and welfare – healed our society following the devastating consequences of a world war. 

McDonnell has also articulated his vision for what he terms a “political renaissance”, where people aren’t limited by existing ideas and structures and have the space to come up with ideas that the party can debate and discuss. This is participatory politics and democracy in action. 

He says: “We’re trying to open up every avenue we possibly can for people to get engaged. It’s about asking people what are you interested in, how do you think it works better, what ideas have you got? It just overcomes some of the staleness we might have had in past years.”

This is a welcomed, long overdue and such a refreshing contrast to Conservatism, which is defined by its opposition to social progressivism. Neoliberals have tried to persuade us that there is no alternative to neoliberalism. They lied. A lot. Now they are dazed and confused because the establishment were so certain that Corbyn’s rise wasn’t supposed to happen. It couldn’t, the media informed us. Over and over.

But it has. It was inevitable. The Labour party had an ace up their sleeve: public interest and democratic accountability. Two sides of the same card.

It’s about time someone lit the way for us, enabling us to find the way out of the dark neoliberal torture dungeon. And once we’ve escaped, we really ought to jail our jailers.

At the very least, neoliberalism should be confined to the dustbin of history.

 

Image result for neoliberalism eugenic

 

I don’t make any money from my work. But you can support Politics and Insights and contribute by making a donation which will help me continue to research and write informative, insightful and independent articles, and to provide support to others. The smallest amount is much appreciated, and helps to keep my articles free and accessible to all – thank you. 

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From homes fit for heroes to the end of secure, lifelong social housing tenancies

Social housing arose to supply uncrowded, well-built homes on secure tenancies at reasonable rents to primarily working class people. The First World War indirectly provided a new impetus for house building programmes, when the poor physical health and condition of many urban recruits to the army raised alarm. This led to a post-war campaign – Homes fit for heroes and in 1919 the Government first required councils to provide housing, helping them to do so through the provision of subsidies, under the Housing Act 1919.

Determined to “lift the shadow of the workhouse from the homes of the poor”, David Lloyd George also promised “a land fit for heroes.” But it was after the Second World War that council house building programmes and inner city slum clearance began in earnest. There was and still is a constant demand for social housing, and “waiting lists” are maintained, with preference being given to those in greatest need.

The post-war settlement refers to an era of public policy consensus that included support for collectivism, a mixed economy, access to justice, healthcare, social housing and a broader welfare state. It lasted until the monetarism and privatisation programmes of the New Right government of Thatcher.

Thatcher’s “right to buy” scheme depleted social housing stock, and there was a sharp decline in the building of new council homes, as she legislated to prevent councils reinvesting money from the sales of housing in building new council houses.

Now the Conservative government is planning to scrap lifetime security of tenure for renters in council and housing association properties, in favour of in favour of fixed-term contracts, according to housing industry reports. Up until recently, most tenants in council and housing association properties had lifetime security, compare to private renters who generally face six-month or one year tenancies.

However, the Tory bedroom tax has eroded the very idea of secure social housing tenure, because people on unemployment benefits, low wages and particularly disabled people now face either an unaffordable housing benefit penalty (and therefore a rise in the amount they have to pay in rent) if they are deemed to be “under-occupying” their home.

Now, under government plans, social landlords will no longer be able to automatically issue tenancies on a lifetime basis and would instead be forced to offer fixed-term lets for prospective tenants.

Although social landlords have been allowed to issue five-year tenancies since the Government changed the law in 2012, only around 1 in 10 new tenancies have seen the offer taken up.

In July the government said it would review the use of lifetime tenancies and limit their use. Civil servants have briefed several sector figures in the last few weeks that this strategy will go as far as preventing landlords offering lifetime tenancies to new tenants.

The Government and the social housing sector recently had a major disagreement over Tory plans to extend its Right To Buy policy to housing associations.

Landlords initially threatened legal action over the proposals when they first appeared in the Tory manifesto, but were apparently encouraged to agree a deal that involved no primary legislation.

The Government recently cut social housing rents in the budget but is planning to raise them for higher earners, under a new policy dubbed “pay to stay”.

Although Natalie Elphicke, co-author of the Treasury-commissioned House/Elphicke review of council house building, has previously urged that lifetime tenancies are restricted to groups such as those in “extreme old age” or “highly disabled” people, at the moment there is no guarrantee  that this will happen.

Michael Gelling, chair of the Tenants and Residents Organisations of England (TAROE), said the prospect was “alarming”, and that long-term tenancies gave tenants and communities stability.

Civil servants are said to be briefing industry figures on the changes, with an official announcement due within the next few months.

A spokesperson for the Department for Communities and Local Government told Inside Housing: “More details will be available in due course.”

547145_195460507271672_1145852710_nCourtesy of Robert Livingstone

This post was written for Welfare Weekly, which is a socially responsible and ethical news provider, specialising in social welfare related news and opinion.

Narxism


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Socialism is not just about what you believe or what you say, it’s about how you see, treat and relate to OTHERS.

Socialism has never been about division and exclusion, yet there are some that have rigid ideas about who and what can properly be labelled “socialist.”

I call this elitist perspective “narxism,” as protagonists, drawn from several scattered, disparate camps, tend to be perpetually disgruntled, often aggressive and they don’t half nark a lot. Narxists tend to have a highly selective, limited and unsophisticated grasp of what Marxism entails. They tend to use nasty personal insults and call you a “class traitor” in discussions, which is a tactic aimed at closing down debate.

Included under this rubric are some of the neomilitants, Trotskyists, nationalists, some of the more nihilistic anarchist revolutionaries, some of the Greens and the “none of the above” group. (NOTA, who advocate voting for no-one in order to register “protest” but end up helping the Tories back into office.)

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Robert Livingstone compiled a list of some of the various fringe parties, each claiming left-wing status: Behold, the united Left.

Oh, and there’s The People’s Front of Judea.  Image result for small wink emoticon copy and paste

We certainly don’t need any more new parties of the Left: what we do need is people that are willing to get behind Labour, to contribute and to take some responsibility by having a positive input – to engage in democratic dialogue with the Party – rather than expecting some silent and spontaneous process of political osmosis to happen.

A Labour government would be only a starting point for us to build a strong movement, not an end to our effort. They are certainly not the best we can do, but they are currently the most viable challenge to the Conservatives that we have, and their policies would make things easier for many people currently struggling under the authoritarians. Not ideal, but an improvement on what we have now. For the moment, we only have an available route comprised of small steps.

Meanwhile, we can contribute to setting a policy agenda and shaping priorities. Democracy doesn’t just happen to us: it is an ongoing process that requires our responsibility-taking and active participation.

There are some people amongst the various fragmentary fringe groups that state plainly they would rather see another Tory government than see the Labour Party in Office, some believe that this will “speed up the revolution”, others think that another Tory term will push Labour far left, sufficiently enough to fulfil their own personal wish list of limited, undemocratic, identity politics; reflecting undemocratic, cherry-picked ideals and an aggressive, highly circumscribed kind of socialist perfection.

Over the last five years, we’ve seen the public view shift rightwards though the Overton window. Many welcomed the welfare “reforms”, for example. If the Tories get back in office again this year, it will be almost impossible to get them out by 2020. There’s already a big gap opened up between electoralism and ideological integrity. Meanwhile, the Right only push further rightwards. That process will continue to factionalise the Left. It will continue to polarise the moderates and the socialists. It will ultimately fragment the Labour movement.

Narxists don’t like to be inclusive, they tend to see socialism as some kind of exclusive, highly idealised, olden-days “working class” club with a membership of people that use a distinctive and adapted language, incorporating heavily utilised and negative terms such “blue labour,” “red tories,” “new labour,” “tory lites,” and they also have a penchant for endless unforgiving discussion of both Clause 4 and “Tony Blair” (Blair blah blah…). Sure some things should change, but we need to take responsibility for making that change, instead of simply bleating about all that’s wrong.

Narxists tend to spread a lot of propaganda and outright lies, which they often parade as “criticism.” Narxists can become very aggressive and personal when their continually repeated soundbites are effectively challenged with solid evidence. That gets us nowhere fast. And it’s not very genuinely socialist either.

There is an identifiable strand of classist anti-intellectualism amongst the narxists, too: an inverted elitism. It’s something of an irony to hear that Labour are “no longer the party of the working class”, when you consider that Marx, who is quoted quite often by such ideological purists, wasn’t remotely “working class”, nor was Engels, for that matter. Or Kropotkin and Bakunin, whose family owned 500 serfs. Most academic neo-marxist theorists were terribly middle-class, too, you know.

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Narxists claim to be “real socialists.” Yet in their insistence on orthodoxy and their quest for a kind of socialist supremacy, the claim to being “principled” does not generally extend to those foundational socialist values of collectivism, cooperation, organisation and unity. Instead we see a mandatory ideological purism, monocratic perfectionism and bellicose individualism rather than collectivism, that simply divides the Left into competitive factions, which serve only to dilute and disempower us, ultimately.

Narxists seem to have no awareness that the world is populated by others, and it really has moved on. Nor do they seem to pay heed to the more pressing circumstances we currently face. Sick and disabled people are being persecuted by our current Tory-led Government, and many have died as a consequence of this Government’s welfare “reforms.” Many are suffering distress and hardship, and that must stop.

For the record, I hate party politics. My own political inclinations lie somewhere along an anarcho-socialist axis. However, I’m a realist, for the moment the only viable means we have of improving social conditions is to vote, whilst organising, awareness-raising, agitating and promoting progressive ideas for positive change.

Who we choose to vote for has profound implications for everyone else, too. This is the most important general election of our lifetime: the outcome will have historic ramfications. It will affect generations to come. If we allow the Tories another unforgiving (and unforgivable) five years, our once progressive and civilised society will be reduced to a neo-feudalist hinterland, where market forces maintain serfdom and increase pauperisation for the majority and the government of aristocrats select who lives and dies.

Remarkably, narxists prefer to endlessly criticise Tony Blair, who left the building some years back, rather than address and oppose the atrocities of the current government. We have an authoritarian government that are unravelling the very fabric of our once civilised society, dismantling democratic process, abusing human rights and destroying lives. People really are suffering and dying because of Tory policies. The typified, dogmatic response from Narxists everywhere? “Yeah, yeah, but I won’t vote for Labour, because that Tony Blair was a tory lite….” or “Yeah, but they’re all the same…” Ad nauseam.

Oh but they are not the same at all.

And the Labour Party has moved on since Blair.

The only viable means currently available to us of preventing another five years of Tory dystopic vision being realised and the destruction of all that reflects the very best of our society – the blueprint of which is our post-war settlement – is a collective act: a Labour vote. The electoral system is the way that it is – we don’t have proportional representation – nonetheless, we have to use what we have intelligently , strategically and conscientiously. For now. Small steps.

I didn’t like Tony Blair either. I am strongly opposed to neoliberalism more generally, and felt he betrayed the working-class by advocating an economic system that invariably creates social hierarchies of wealth. Some of his social policies were okay. But this isn’t about dogma: it’s about doing the very best we can, acknowledging our circumstances. There is so very much at stake. The Tories want to completely destroy our NHS, public services and support provisions. They want to repeal our Human Rights Act and withdraw from the European Convention. Many of us won’t survive another Tory term. Unfortunately, I don’t see a revolution on the horizon. I do see a very fragmented, disillusioned, apathetic, disengaged and indifferent population.

We need to be responsive to our current situation – in the here and now, and clinging to tired and past-their-usefulness doctrines isn’t going to achieve that. The world has moved on, we have to adapt, respond and move with it.

Let’s try for some genuine solidarity, let’s unite in our common aims, let’s recognise our basic similarities as fellow humans with the same fundamental basic needs, and fight the real enemy, instead of bickering about what socialism is or ought to be about, and what our only current hope – the Labour party – ought to adopt as its brand and mantle. We don’t have a choice, we have to be strategic and tactical at the present. It sucks, but that’s how it is.

Socialism isn’t about what we think and say: it’s about what we DO. Collectively, and for each other.

I’m not a Blairite, but I’m no “Narxist” either. Socialism isn’t about ideological purity, it isn’t about what you think or say, or even what you want: it’s what you DO. It’s about how you relate to others and how you view community and society. It’s about solidarity, cooperation, mutual aid and all of those other values that we should practice instead of just preaching. It’s not ever about competitiveness and exclusivity.

The hardline “real socialists” have damaged our movement every bit as much as “blue labour” have, in their advocacy of factionism.

Without cooperation, solidarity and unity, the Labour movement will die. That must not happen.

In solidarity.

Upwards and onwards.

Related

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Human rights are the bedrock of democracy, which the Tories have imperiled.

47 more good reasons to vote Labour

The moment Ed Miliband said he’ll bring socialism back to Downing Street

Ed Miliband’s policy pledges at a glance

Electioneering and grandstanding: how to tell the difference between a moral political party and a moralistic one.

You’d have to be Green to believe the Green Party: two more lies exposed.

 10635953_696483917087806_7307164383030383606_nMany thanks to Robert Livingstone for his brilliant memes